Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has added many new features. One of the most important is called “Enhanced Measurement”. This will automatically track offsite links, file downloads, scrolling, and video engagement on any embedded YouTube videos on your site. Gone are the days of needing to track these events manually.
At first glance, this looks like an excellent new feature in Google Analytics. Things that in the past required setting up tagging in Tag Manager (or using custom JQuery code) are now done automatically. Your data will be enhanced, which will only help your analyses. However, there are some issues with this automated approach that need to be explored.
One of these issues has to do with how YouTube videos are tracked. It is not as simple as it seems. For the automatic tracking to work, YouTube videos require a special flag to be set in your embed code. Without this flag, Google Analytics cannot track these videos. The flag in question is enablejsapi=true. So for example, your YouTube embed may look like the one below:
Note the “enablejsapi=true” flag. By adding this flag, Google Analytics 4 can automatically track interactions on these videos. Problem solved, right? Unfortunately, there are some issues with this approach.
For every video embedded on your site, you will have to add this flag. That means your content editors will need to be trained in adding this flag, and/or your CMS will need to be modified to add this flag to every embedded YouTube video. Furthermore, any existing videos on your site will need to have this flag added to be tracked. Seems like a lot of work, right? If only there was an easier, more scalable way to track YouTube videos.
But there is! Simply use Google Tag Manager. Instead of using the built-in automatic tracking, we will set up a YouTube trigger and GA4 event tag. When you set up the YouTube trigger there is an option to automatically add the JSAPI flag to every video:
With this trigger you no longer need to worry about adding the enablejsapi flag to every video manually—the trigger will do it automatically.
Along with this trigger, you need to set up a GA4 event tag, as well as turn on the default video parameters. Pass these parameters in with your event tag using the trigger shown above to fire the event. Another benefit of this approach? You can pass any other metadata along with the video that you desire. For example, user IDs, demographic information, etc. These would not be captured by the automatic tracking listed before.
With this approach you can safely track your YouTube videos without needing to manually add the enablejsapi flag to every new and existing video on your site. Your content developers will thank you for not increasing their workload.